With all the talk centered on Clemson’s skill players and the Ohio State secondary, it makes it easy to forget that football games are not won or lost at the skill positions. Instead, no matter who is throwing or catching the ball, football games are always won at the lines of scrimmages.
And there is one particular matchup that is interesting when No. 2 Clemson plays No. 3 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Eve in Glendale, Arizona.
After being embarrassed by Pittsburgh up front on Nov. 12, as the Panthers held the Tigers to 50 rushing yards, Clemson’s offensive line has gotten off the mat and has responded accordingly. The Tigers ran for 254 yards against Wake Forest and 250 against South Carolina, before rushing for 182 yards against Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game.
“We didn’t have to go call any player’s only meetings or anything afterwards,” center Jay Guillermo said. “We knew what we had and we knew that we had lost and given up an opportunity, but luckily we didn’t let that define our season. I’ve just been proud for how we’ve bounced back ever since then.”
Clemson’s running game, or lack thereof at times this season, seemed to be the final piece in getting the offense back to where it was when it made it all the way to the national championship game last year. But this year, they have struggled until, the last three weeks of the season, to find that consistency in the running game.
While Clemson has had issues running the ball at times, the Buckeyes’ defensive front has come along just fine. Ohio State ranks 14th in the country against the run, yielding just 117.1 yards a game. Those are impressive numbers considering the Big Ten is known for a lot of good offensive linemen and running backs.
Some wonder if Clemson, which is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, can run the football at all against the Buckeyes which consist of guys such as Sam Hubbard (6-5, 266), DreMont Jones (6-3 280), Michael Hill (6-3, 305) and Tyquan Lewis (6-4, 266). Opponents averaged just 3.2 yards per carry.
“It’s like from the beginning of the season we always had everybody kind of doubting us a little bit,” Clemson right guard Tyrone Crowder said. “Even last year, we’re always answering that.
“Whatever we do we’re going to have a plan for them, but as a leader on the offensive line I feel like we’re going to be preparing for whatever they got. We’re going to have a plan for them.”
Like Crowder, Guillermo is excited to see how they do against the Buckeyes.
“I mean anytime you can get in this spot and go against a good defensive line you’re always excited. I think those guys are explosive, they move well, you got their defensive ends they can come out and play the interior, they can play inside, it is just depending on the situation,” Guillermo said. “I mean they’re really, really good. They got depth too. They got quality depth.
“I mean those guys they roll in. It’s not like they’re just rolling in guys because they have to be there. They’re rolling in guys because they can be there and they deserve to play and it’s going to be tough for us, but I feel like we go against a really good defensive line every day in practice. That will really prepare us for what we’re going to be able to face. You know what we can do, kind of lets us gage on what we can do, what we can’t do. That’s a really good advantage for our coaching staff, but yeah they’re just solid. They do what they do very well, they don’t make a lot of mistakes and it’s obvious you know they play disciplined, they play hard, it’s everything that you would expect in someone who goes to Ohio State.”